Five Basalt spikers honored by league |

Five Basalt spikers honored by league

Basalt setter Elisabeth Nemiec, sporting a bright yellow mouth guard, smiles during a September practice session. She is among the Longhorns who have won all-conference recognition. (Aspen Times file)

In preparation for a Oct. 21 rematch with Gunnison, Basalt volleyball head coach Erin Holmes decided to review tape from the Longhorns’ 3-1 loss to the Cowboys on Sept. 9.She watched the tape for few minutes, then shut it off. She didn’t recognize the team she saw on the screen.”I had to turn it off and said to myself that this isn’t going to help me,” Holmes said. “Our team improved so much.”It was a 2005 season that got off to a rocky start, but ended with a strong performance that fell just points short against conference unbeaten Hotchkiss at Districts. It was a season that culminated in an impressive five Basalt players earning all-conference recognition.Leading the list of three all-conference first team selections was inside blocker Bailey Holmes, who was named to the team for a second straight season. The junior, the daughter of the coach, had to adjust to both a new position and a frustrating ankle injury that sidelined her for Basalt’s first six contests. But she rebounded impressively.The Longhorns managed to hold things together while Bailey was out but once she was reinserted into the lineup, Basalt went on a run. Following a loss to Gunnison in her first game back, Bailey and the Longhorns reeled off victories in nine of their next 11, securing their position as one of the top three teams in the conference.

The communication problems that plagued Basalt on the court and confounded coaches were corrected once the team’s rock in the center returned.”She was an outside hitter, and we moved her to the middle and she got better and better at it,” Erin Holmes said. “She has a real impact with the girls in terms of intensity.”Bailey’s presence on the court was a strong indicator of her team’s performance. The same could be said for junior setter Elisabeth Nemiec, who spent an entire season showcasing her toughness and determination. Nemiec – an honorable mention recipient in 2004 – was named to the all-conference team.With Nemiec forced out of the lineup with a nagging knee injury during the second game in Basalt’s District match with Roaring Fork, the Longhorns lost, 25-20. Nemiec returned one game later and Basalt closed out the match, 3-1. Despite being rushed to Grand Junction for emergency dental surgery after a Sept. 3 collision with teammate Cassie Meyer knocked her two front teeth loose, Nemiec, sporting a yellow mouthguard, was back at practice just days later. Nemiec was at the center of the action when Basalt needed her most, helping orchestrate rallies against Aspen during the regular season. In both matches, the Longhorns faced two-game deficits. In both matches, Nemiec’s consistent play was a contributing factor that led to victory.

“She had a double root canal, but didn’t miss a second,” Erin Homes said. “She is one tough tough kid.”Joining Bailey and Nemiec on the all-conference team is outside hitter Sam Christensen. The junior, who played sparingly last season, worked tirelessly to improve her all-around game during a winter spent on Glenwood Springs’ club team. Where she once would put down one out of three balls, Christensen eliminated the majority of her mistakes and became a consistence force, coach Dan Drozd said. Her power from the outside was a formidable challenge for Slope teams to contend with.”She was ripping balls toward the end of the season,” Drozd said. “She had some outstanding passes and at the end of the year, really started to stand out.”Junior Alyssa Leslie and sophomore Dayne Toney received honorable mention. Leslie distinguished herself with consistent defensive play. While she did not compile offensive numbers, she constantly kept the ball in play. By season’s end, it was hard for coaches to take her off the court, Erin Holmes said.Toney – an honorable mention selection as a freshman in 2004 – improves with every second she spends on the court, Erin Holmes said. Toney contributed to Basalt’s strength up front on both offense and defense.”She’s only a sophomore, which is impressive,” Drozd said. “She’s got a lot of raw talent and has an exciting future.”

Basalt has reason to smile. All five of its postseason award recipients return next season. The Longhorns, who have no seniors, return 11 players with varsity experience next season.Winter club practices have already begun in Glenwood Springs and are soon to start in Aspen. Over a third of Basalt’s team will participate in volleyball this winter, with an eye on improving for next season. Oct. 29’s five-game loss to Hotchkiss – Basalt’s most complete effort all season, according to coaches – is just the beginning.”I told the girls that was the best losses I’ve ever witnessed,” Drozd said. “The more time we had to run our offense and the more practices we had, the better we became. “It all came together and hopefully we can lead from that into next year.” Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is

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